This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

What the Code of the West was, and is


If you like old Western movies, like I do, you have seen reference to the Code of the West. And like so much fictionalized stuff, you may have wondered if it was just in the movies, or if it actually existed. Rest assured, it did, and does, especially in places like Phoenix, Arizona.

The Code of the West, of course, was never written down. And it was open to a lot of interpretation. But it's a chivalry code, an expectation of how a man should act, whether he was a Knight, a Don, or a Cowboy. It led to some serious confrontations in the Old West, and it still does. If it puzzles you, it has to do with whether you see yourself as a good guy or a bad guy. And yes, it does have to do with men.

Historically, men have had a tendency to kill each other. Getting men to not kill each other has been quite a challenge over the centuries, and has led to things called "laws". That is, if a crime is committed, society punishes. Of course, laws like that need to be enforced, and in many places in the world there just hasn't been enough lawmen. And the wide-open places like Arizona were that way up until fairly recent times, the 20th Century.

I grew up in Minnesota and have spent most of my adult life in Phoenix, Arizona, and I'm a western man. My handshake is my contract. If I promise something, you can count on it. I do not steal, I do not harm the innocent. In the movies, this character always wore a white hat, remember?

I've known a lot of people who are good guys. And some of them have been women. The Code of the West can seem corny, but in a world of bad guys, it's nice to see someone tip their hat.

Image above: Gold Alley in 1915, Phoenix Arizona.